One hundred days after Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast, many residents still don’t have permanent homes to return to. They are staying wherever they can find a bed, whether it’s hotels, rentals or crashing with friends and family.
Instant relocation is hard enough. Imagine doing it with four kids and number five on the way. That’s the situation Jennifer Dady and her family face. Their home in Broad Channel, a Queens area on the water, was heavily damaged and is under repair. After a carousel of temporary living arrangements, they finally found a suitable rental in the Rockaways, not far from their neighborhood.
“It’s helpful that I’m close. The kids can stay in their school, so that’s good,” she says as her children, aged 2 to 10, hover loudly. “I can keep an eye on my house. It’s easier. It’s definitely easier.”
She’s moving into a newly renovated building. Its developer Ron Moelis, principal at L+M Development Partners, has been working with the city to provide priority access to displaced people. Now that work is gradually finishing on the roughly 300 units in the Queens building, interest is strong from Sandy victims. That was not the case for apartments he offered through the Sandy housing program in the Bronx and northern Manhattan.
“I don’t think we had any takers outside the affected areas, which was a little bit of a surprise,” Moelis says.
Sandy’s victims wanted to stay close to home, where their family, friends and schools are. Federal Emergency Management Agency official Mike Byrne leads Sandy relief here. A former New York firefighter raised in New York public housing, he understands those ties.
“These neighborhoods are the center of their family lives, their cultural lives,” Byrne stresses. “In many cases, it’s where people speak their language. We have 25 different languages we have to translate our material into.”
Not to mention that New York’s a dense urban area where many lack cars. You can move just a mile and be a world away. The housing challenge is quite different than the tornado-stricken small towns FEMA regularly responds to. All this underscores why some residents forced out of their homes by storm damage have more waiting ahead.
As for Queens mother Jennifer Dady, she wants her family back in their home before her next child is born. Her due date is July. She’s not optimistic.